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Based on comments from colleagues and associates in South Korea, I was expecting the weather to be chilly. Located at about the 37th lateral north of the equator, Incheon does get some snow in the winters, and with another solar minimum upon us and all, and November being close enough to winter, cool weather was to be expected. Nonetheless, I believed in my two upper-body winter-wear articles of clothing, both of which had been purchased in tropical Phuket; a pea green sweater purchased weeks ago at H&M, Central Festival and the grass-green windbreaker-coat I got from Phuket’s premium outlet mall back in 2012, proved more than sufficient for Incheon’s autumn.
While I felt comfortable with the cool weather, which reminded me a little of back home in Colorado, most of my colleagues and even the Koreans seemed to be shivering all the time, fully wrapped in scarves and thick winter coats; mind you, there was one night, I needed to zip up, but nothing on Colorado windchill. There’s something about cold weather and its ability to warm up one’s blood and keep you motivated to get where you’re going…
The flight would be an overnight five hour haul, and considering extra security warnings, I made sure to get to Suvarnabhumi well in advance. I used to really like the atmosphere of an international airport. The excitement of travelling abroad, all the travelers suited up, rolling around their shiny new carry-on luggage… Now, I must admit the whole ordeal has lost much of its charm, particularly the lining up like animals at security and immigration inspection… It is what it is.
Our group touched down at Incheon International Airport early Friday morning. It took everyone in our group about an hour plus to get through immigration and baggage claim, and after securing 10-day data sim cards to ensure smooth internal comms for the 8-day work trip, we rallied for a coffee and doughnut at Krispy Kreme, before jumping in taxis to take us to our destination in the heart of the Songdo business district, about a 30 minutes drive.
Too early to check in, we scoped out our place of operations for the next week, the Songdo ConvensiA convention center, and got a little bit of work done into the afternoon before it was finally time to check in to our hotels nearby. I was lucky enough to be booked into the Oakwood Premier, which is located on the upper floors of Incheon’s tallest skyscraper, the NEATT — Northeast Trade Tower — which, at 305 meters, is the second tallest building in South Korea, behind only Seoul’s 555-meter-high Lotte World Tower, which was just completed this year.
My room was on the 47th floor with a spectacular northeast view. Fully equiped, the room had everyone one could need to be self-sufficient, including a rice cooker, pots, pans, an iron and ironing board, compact washer-dryer built into the kitchen, and fully automated, smart toilet; our group ate out mostly and considering reports of fluoridated Incheon metro water, didn’t find it in me to try out the bathtub with TV set; but I did enjoy the smart toilet on a few occasions, and used the washer-dryer a few times during the week.
And it proved to be an active and busy eight days for the 23rd Asian Seed Congress, which I’ll get to write about plenty more in the coming week… For this blog, I’ll say that the annual exhibition and conference is held in conjunction with the Asia and Pacific Seed Association’s General Assembly Meeting, and is host to a number of meetings for APSA members and associates, featuring lectures given by expert speakers who enlighten members on all the latest happenings in the global seed industry.
Suffice to say, I had quite a busy week networking, snapping and uploading photos and taking notes for APSA content to be published in, well… coming soon.
Congress out of the way, I did get a decent chance for some down time on the final day before flying back to Bangkok, which I used to explore some sites near the hotel, namely the NC Cube Canal Walk, Hyundai Premium Outlet, a short ride on the subway and a walk through three city parks. The shopping was nothing special to me, and I just went along to accompany my Chinese colleague. I didn’t find anything particularly cheaper than what I could find in Thailand, minus winter clothes, but don’t really need winter clothes to bring back to Thailand so… The parks — Songdo Central Park, Michuhol Park and Haedoji Park — I particularly enjoyed, and took plenty of pics for your enjoyment below:
In sum about my short trip to the Far East, Incheon is an up and coming vibrant port city. With the Yellow Sea on its west side, the port city’s November mornings were foggy and chilly but the sun did come out to provide some extra warmth on occasion, which was a treat. Songdo is bustling with construction activity, new skyscrapers being erected; everything seems to run smooth and orderly; cyclists and pedestrians safely commute around the city blocks with ease; the traffic lights and crosswalks cut out the guessing and there is no fear for one’s life; loads of dining options on every block, from lobster to Mexican, Korean to Indian; the shopping is favored by mostly women from far and wide, but I do recommend the parks to everyone and anyone. The autumn nature colors provide fantastic contrasts with the city backdrop, and there are plenty of winter birds frolicking around; ponds full of carp and lots of interesting art and architecture to please the eye. Speaking of birds, and visual pleasantries, many of the Korean girls walking around the streets still don short skirts, with black stockings, even with the temperature edging towards zero. A warming sight indeed.